Without a doubt this has been the most incredible travel year ever, not just in terms of the places we’ve been, but in the friendships we formed and the personal growth we experienced. Perhaps that’s why we consider travel to be the perfect therapy for a midlife crisis (or any aged crisis for that matter). Here’s a brief recap of our incredible year.
We were honored to be the featured speakers at the annual Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce banquet. We fell in love with Gainesville in 2012 when we were on the Rand McNally – USA Today Best of the Road Rally where Gainesville was named the Most Patriotic Small Town in America!
In March we were back in Texas, this time in the super fun town of Austin where we served on a panel of food bloggers at SXSW for TECHmunch.
Memphis is the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, home of the blues, and quite possibly the barbecue capital of the universe. Our itinerary included Beale Street, Sun Studios, Graceland, the Civil Right’s Museum, Stax Record Studio, Rendezvous Ribs and the Famous Peabody Marching Ducks!
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is one of our favorite towns in America. We took a carriage tour behind a particularly flatulent horse named Ralph. We ate. We took a midnight walking ghost tour. We ate. We took a harbor tour on a riverboat. We ate. We went on a pub crawl, We ate. We took a self guided walking tour around the historic district and … oh yeah, we ate!
Expedia had its team of Viewfinder bloggers out for some meetings at Expedia headquarters. We were extremely impressed with the Expedia family and their dedication to revolutionizing travel through technology. Over a night of bowling in Bellevue, we had the opportunity to network and bond with some of the greatest travel writers in the world.
In May we made our first visit ever to Toronto, Canada for TBEX (Travel Bloggers Exchange) where we were formally introduced as Expedia Viewfinders. It was a great opportunity to make connections with other writers and with future destinations. AND we got to experience poutine for the first time! We booked our flight home through Buffalo so that we could take in Niagara Falls and check “eating Buffalo wings in Buffalo” off of our bucket list!
Nashville isn’t called “Music City USA” for nothin’. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort, which is a destination in itself, served as our base for a music filled agenda that included catching a show at the Grand Ole Oprey, visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum, the Dukes of Hazzard Museum, the Ryman Auditorium, and of course the amazing night life on Lower Broadway. The sweet potato pancakes from the Pancake Pantry are the best we’ve had anywhere.
Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Carnival Sunshine
Cruising the Med had been on our bucket list for a long time. When Carnival Cruise Lines invited us aboard the amazing Carnival Sunshine, we jumped at the chance. We had the opportunity to visit Barcelona, Marseilles, Florence, Rome, Sicily, Dubrovnik, and Venice. You’ll be seeing and reading lots more from this incredible trip.
Alaska’s Inner Passage aboard Un-Cruise’s Safari
We weren’t sure if we would like a small ship experience but after a week aboard the Safari, we can’t imagine a better way to experience Alaska’s Inner Passage. After a whirlwind tour of Juneau, we departed on an adventure of a lifetime. We saw more wildlife in one week than we have in our collective lives. Many of our fellow passengers have become wonderful friends! We can’t wait for you to see all of our pictures and videos from this incredible adventure.
It’s not often that we visit the same destination more than once in a year, but we gladly returned to Memphis to help promote Expedia’s partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It was quite a touching and moving experience to see the care, support and research St. Jude provides in their mission to find cures and save lives.
Molokai is one of the most beautiful and spiritual places we’ve ever visited. It has the highest sea cliffs in the world, lush tropical vegetation, a fascinating history and a population of beautiful souls. Some of the highlights of our journey included a visit to a plumeria plantation, a kayak trip, a tour of the Hawala Valley, and a mule ride from the top of the spectacular sea cliffs down a 3 plus mile trail to the Kalaupapa Penninsula at the bottom. Sandi was extremely anxious about riding a mule, the breathtaking views alleviated all of her fears.
Tuscaloosa, Alabama – football game
Each year we try to catch at least one college football game and this year we went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where football is a way of life. The atmosphere was electric and the tailgating scene was amazing.
There is so much to do in Chicago: riding the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier, eating a hotdog at Wrigley Field; taking the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower; shopping on the Magnificent Mile or simply walking up and down the streets admiring Chicago’s architecture. One of the highlights of this trip was meeting #FoodieChats founder, Steve Green.
New York City We never get tired of visiting New York City as we always experience something new. On this trip we emerged from the subway on Canal Street and found ourselves in Chinatown, where we shopped for authentic Chinese food, fake designer merchandise and souvenirs.
Caribbean Cruise aboard Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam
As if we hadn’t eaten enough already, in November we embarked on our third cruise of the year aboard Holland America’s state-of-the-art Nieuw Amsterdam. We were extremely impressed with the ship’s dedicated crew, themed restaurants and broadway quality shows. Some of the highlights of our cruise included holding sea turtles in the Cayman Islands, visiting Mayan ruins in Cozumel, eating Key Lime Pie in Key West, and singing nightly in the ship’s Piano Bar!
New Orleans, Louisiana
It was like reuniting with an old friend as we flew to New Orleans to meet the Carnival Sunshine upon her arrival from the Mediterranean for her official naming ceremony. We enjoyed touring the ship and reminiscing about our time spent on the Sunshine earlier in the year. We stayed an extra day in New Orleans where we toured the city and ate more than we should.
December started with a stay at the Karisma Azul Sensatori Resort located just south of Cancun. The “gourmet-inclusive” experience was the pinnacle of luxury set in paradise. We took day excursions to the picturesque town of Playa del Carmen and to the beautiful Mayan ruins by the sea in Tulum. The 14 course dinner we experienced at the resort’s Le Chique restaurant was certainly one of the most memorable of the entire year. …AND we got to spend time with the amazing Twitter diva, @AnnTran_!
New York City
Just when we thought we could settle in for the holidays, we got an invitation to return to New York City for a big party announcing a partnership of Dr. Seuss with Carnival Cruise Lines. We hardly ever turn down a party invitation so we found ourselves back in New York along with a few inches of snow! New York is absolutely beautiful when decorated for the holidays! So, that’s a recap of our year.
Can’t wait to see what next year has in store.
What are your travel plans for the new year?